Sunday, January 4, 2015

Freedom

It was Christmas Day. The presents were wrapped, the pies were made and it was time to sit down for the Christmas feast. Pappy headed down the hill on the dirt road to let the rest of the family know it was time to celebrate. He waved at the man walking up the hill thinking it was Junior, but when both hands went up in surrender he realized it was not his brother in law but a fugitive of the law instead. Not an uncommon occurence since his daddy was a prison guard and the maximum security prison we literally over the river and through the woods. The fugitive assured him he would cause no trouble but instead wanted a ride back to the prison for his escape had turned out to be a mistake. On Christmas Eve the idea of escape and freedom had been overwhelming and he had decided that all he wanted for Christmas was freedom. Freedom from his lot in life. Freedom from facing the consequences of his actions.  Freedom sounded wonderful, but after spending a cold, dark night in the woods he realized he was not truly free, but just in bondage to new obstacles.  Now he wanted to go back. Pappy walked him up the hill to the house and agreed to take him back but not until the family had finished their lunch and exchanged their gifts. Pulling up a chair in typical family fashion they had a guest for Christmas dinner that year. When the last gift had been opened the time came for their new friend to return to his prison. Taking one last piece of pie for the road he ate slowly as they drove, savoring every morsel. The closer they came to their destination he began to ask, " Can you please drive just a little slower?" He had tasted true freedom that day and he wanted it to linger. He was in no hurry to return to the life his choices had made for him. He wanted freedom and not the freedom his life could offer or create for himself, but true freedom. He wanted freedom with frills. He wanted the gifts, the friends, the family and the pie. He didn't want to hide away looking over his shoulder, but he wanted complete and total freedom. He had tasted it and it was good but it was too late. The decision had been made. His course was set and freedom was not an option. Have you ever longed to be free? I mean truly free! Free for fear, free for worry, free from the strongholds that pull you down, free from the struggles and bondage that grip your life. Freedom cannot be simulated. Freedom is a choice. Freedom comes when we make the choice to follow Jesus each and every day.  John 8:36 says, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." I received the ability to walk in freedom 36 years ago when I trusted Jesus as my Savior but I have not always walked in freedom. It has been my choice. It was and is a choice that is made daily. Psalms 119:55 says, "I will walk in freedom because I have sought your precepts." As I seek and know his word I know how I am to think, speak, act and react. Knowing his truth is freedom. Walking in His way is freedom. My theme for the year 2015 is "Walk in freedom." I want to know his word and walk in freedom. Freedom from worry, freedom from the        need to please others, freedom from fear, freedom from self, freedom from sin. Not a freedom that I   try to create but a true freedom than can only come from following Jesus with reckless abandonment. Not a freedom that I savor for a moment for fear that it will soon end, but a freedom that is certain, a freedom that is eternal.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18, " Now The Lord is the Spirt and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, as being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from The Lord who is the spirit." I want to be transformed into his image. I want to reflect His glory in all that I do. Living and playing for an audience of ONE! Walking in Freedom, that is my hearts desire.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Standing In The Gap

Writing is a great passion of mine but for a season The Lord has called me to help those I love seek after their passions, so I have taken a break.  I think we are approaching a "settled" life if that is possible with 4 boys playing 4 sports and learning to bloom in a new community. All this change has brought about much joy but also many struggles.  As I have sought The Lord in dealing with these new life and parenting struggles he continually brings me to Ezekiel 22:30 "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."  I have been called to intercede on behalf of my husband and children like never before. Intercede- Go Between.  When building a brick wall the mortar goes between the bricks to bind the bricks together and strengthen them. Without the mortar "going between" the wall would collapse. The easiest way to break down a wall is to start where the mortar is weak.  "This" is what the enemy is looking for. He studies our children and he knows their weaknesses. Where will they compromise? Where is the easiest, most vulnerable attack? Guess what?  As their mom I see those areas too. Why? Because I study my children. The Lord has called me to "stand in those gaps" on behalf of my children. To pray for those specific areas. To keep HIS word ever before them concerning those weaknesses. Intercession is to fill in those gaps in our children's spiritual armor and hold them up so the enemy can't gain an advantage.  Mom can't fix it all. Mom can't make it all better or even make all the bad go away, but Mom CAN pray, interceding on behalf of my children.  I can hold their arms up in praise when they are weary.  I have recently seen this first hand.  One of our boys has had a really hard time with moving so far from friends and family. He struggled for quite some time, then I suddenly noticed a huge change is his attitude and countenance. I asked him if he knew what caused the sudden change. He responded, "The only thing that is different is that I have been praying more."  Circumstances had not changed but he was praying and I was praying. I confess that as his mood improved I directed my prayers in a different direction and he too decreased his pleas to The Lord. About a week ago I noticed he was very depressed, teary and just plain miserable. I returned to the gap, asked others to pray and challenged him to seek The Lord.  At the time he was too discouraged to lift his hands in prayer. Ever been there?  I have.  Those of us who know him well, who can see the weak spots began to intercede. The Lord opened up many opportunities for me to hang out with precious young man. We talked, we cried, we shared scripture and we prayed. Last night he came to me and said, "I know God is working because there is nothing else to explain it.  Today I have been overcome with joy. It has to be God." Yes, my son, it HAS to be God. Only God can create beauty from ashes. Only God can turn our sorrow into joy. Only God!  I realized that as a parent we cannot, we must not move away from the gaps in the wall. We must stand guard and intercede on behalf of our children to protect them from the enemy as the walls of their lives are being built.  They are in a battle each and every day and we must commit to standing on the front lines FOR THEM. We know them, sometimes better than they know themselves, so we know how to pray. It is our joy and privilege to lift our children up, to stand in the gap for them as God grows these precious boys into mighty men of God.  He is looking for ONE who will stand in the gap. Will YOU be that one for your children?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Run to Obey"


Earlier this week Matt was in the back of the house and he called, “Jacob, could you please come here.” Jacob quickly jumped up to run to his daddy but as he ran back I heard him say, “Yes sir, am I in trouble?” He was not in trouble. His daddy just wanted to show him something, but he was quick to obey. Actually, he ran to obey. For years I have told my children, “Run to obey.” That is a phrase used quite often in my parenting vocabulary. Jacob was not sure what his daddy wanted but he ran to obey. I wish I could say that I always set that example for my children as I run to obey my Father, but I have not. God has been working in my heart and Matt’s heart for a few months. We knew what it was leading up to but we continued to question...”Why Lord?” “How Lord?” “What then Lord?” As we waited and waited the stirring grew greater and greater. We could hear His voice but we were certain He would not call us to blindly obey. Not this time. We have 4 children, we have people that depend on us, there are people that will be hurt and even disappointed in us. “Lord, it will make more since if you just tell us what and why.” BUT GOD said, “Obey and I will show you the next step.” I heard it clearly but decided to keep it a secret. Maybe I wasn’t really hearing His voice and after all I have to submit to my husband. That was my spirit of justification that sounded very spiritual. About 2 weeks ago Matt heard the same voice and same word...”Obey and I will show you the next step.” I wanted to stomp and say “Dog gone it. It was His voice.” But as I heard my husband pour his heart out to me I knew we had heard the voice of our God clearly and I knew what we had to do. Wow! This was going to be hard. The next day Matt obeyed and I cheered him on. So many things are uncertain and there are so many things that don’t make since, but I trust my Savior and I want to run to obey Him. I knew we would disappoint those that we love and others would just be hurt or even mad, but Matt’s response, “I would rather disappoint the world than disobey my Savior.” As we were sharing our hearts with our children Caleb said, “Well the Lord has spoken and we obey. We NEVER disobey our Lord.” The fact that my 12 year old has that messaged inscribed upon his heart blesses my soul and I pray that as he watches his daddy lead by example that he will become a man who is just as obedient. Sometimes God calls us to obey even when it does not make sense to us. My heart holds firm to the fact that He sees tomorrow clearer than we see today and He works all things for our good and His glory. I do not walk forward in fear but in confidence. I am emotional, but I am excited. He is my refuge and strength and He does not delay. His peace reigns in our hearts and my time with Him is even more precious knowing that I have RUN TO OBEY.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Changing Normal"

The lives we live here in the year 2012 are anything but normal. They have become "accepted" thus seeming very normal, but there is nothing "normal" about parents working 12 hour days, children caring for themselves, children spending every night at athletic events, 1 night a week around the dinner table as a family and only seeing our children for an hour and a half each day. It has at times and for a season become necessary, but it is not normal. IF this is normal, I don't want to be normal. Our society has accepted this way of life and from where I stand it is a trap. One that we have found ourselves caught in. Please hear my heart, what I am about to say is not easy and it is not my intent to ask or insinuate that you should change your normal. Recently the Lord has called Matt and I to a place of evaluation. We have taken some time to evaluate each of our children, our schedule and our family life. During this time of evaluation we have become convicted that it is time to change the Hawkins normal. With four boys we understand that life is going to be busy and we love everything that we do, but a few months ago it hit us that we have 5 years left with Matthew under our roof. Matt came to me and this is what he said, "I have five years left to train Matthew up in righteousness and holiness and to impart Godly wisdom to him and teach him what it means to be a man of God. I have 5 years left to cast a vision for the kingdom of God into his heart and to teach him what it means to be a man of character and integrity and a Godly husband and father. I can't do that in a hour and a half a day. It is time we as a family make a difference for the kingdom of God." His words were such a confirmation because God had been weaving these same thoughts into the tapestry of my heart. We prayed for a month and discussed what this "change" would look like for our family. The Lord impressed on both of our hearts that it was time for the Hawkins to "rest and know that HE is God." For a season, we are resting from ALL extra curricular activities. We have to work, we have to go to school and we get to go to church. Aside from those commitments we will be focusing on what it means to be a family and how we as a family can serve each other and our community. I love watching Matt's excitement as he plans family service projects, family fun nights, family trips and devotions. I know what you are thinking? What do the boys think about this? At first the two oldest were not thrilled and are still trying to respectfully accept this change, but I shared with them, this is not just a good idea or thought or something we want to "try." This is a matter of obedience. The Lord himself has called OUR FAMILY to this place and we MUST obey. If it were just an idea or a thought I would be walking forward with fear and trembling afraid I was setting my children up for a life of therapy, but knowing it is a God Calling on our life I am excited and can't wait to watch and see what He will do during this change. I tell my children often, "I am more concerned with your character than with your comfort and fun." I want you to know that we have awesome children. They love the Lord and they are very good boys, but I can see glimpses of this world weaseling its way into their lives. I see things of this world becoming important to them. I see their identity becoming defined by the sport they play and the opinions of their friends. When those things become evident it is time for a change. God's word tells us that we are to be "in the world, but not of the world." We are to "step out and be separate." The time we have with our children is fleeting. We blink and they are grown and gone. We are stewards but for a time. I want to know that I have done all I can do to teach them, show them and train them to love Jesus with all their heart, soul and mind. This is just for a season. (or so we think!) We must obey! Pray for our family as we walk this road of obedience. Pray that we honor the Lord in ALL we do. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When fear creeps in...

Writing and blogging are definitely on my list of loves, but in recent months that plate quit spinning and fell to the ground while I have frantically tried to keep the rest spinning. Exercising is actually the plate that is spinning out of control and I have lost 40lbs and have become an avid runner. Last night I decided I would run to Matt's office which is just over 1.5 miles away. I set out with the intention of a mild run and decided to turn left instead of right which meant 1.5 turned into 3.8 and light turned to dark before I reached Matt's office. I was faced with a choice. I could take the high traffic road with cars and homes and people or I could take the road less traveled and continue my peaceful run. As my feet pounded against the dirt and the sun set before me I was more than happy with my plan. About 1/2 mile down the dirt road I realized that darkness was approaching fast and would arrive before I reached my destination. I started getting nervous and running faster. My cell phone went dead and it dawned on me that no one knew my route. FEAR overtook my thoughts. I knew where I was going and I knew how to get there, but fear of the unknowns along the way took the joy out of my run. Does this sound familiar? Can you relate? Do you know where you are going? Do you know how to get there? Do the fears and unknowns of this life ever rob you of your joy in the race? With joy gone and 1/2 mile left to run I decided I needed protection. I found a large stick (well maybe it was a limb) on the edge of the road. It was very much like a double edged sword. It was a large limb in the shape of a Y and it took both hands to carry it. At this point I was no longer running towards my destination, I was walking slowly, cautiously and my focus was on my surroundings, NOT on my destination. The sword brought a sense of safety but still uncertain as to what I would do with it if danger approached, I needed more. I began to sing and sing loud. Caleb said "Mom, I can see you walking with a big stick and singing 'I will sing of my redeemer, lift my voice to praise the Lord..." I love that he knows me so well. That is exactly what I was singing. I had my "sword" and His words of praise were on my lips and then I saw the light. I recognized the lamp light that is stationed right outside of Matt's office. When I saw the light my fears were lifted. GONE. I knew my destination was close. I could run again. I held on to my sword and I continued to sing and my joy returned. So what happened? The same thing that happens in our spiritual lives every day. We know our destination and we know how to get there. HE has given us His word as our sword and the guaranteed Holy Spirit within us to be our song and our source of joy and conviction, but unknowns creep in causing us to take our eyes off of the prize. We become distracted and are robbed of the joy of walking with Him daily. Too often we wait until we are afraid, worried or overwhelmed to pick up our sword or to worship Him. Keeping our eyes on Him, staying in His word and living our lives in praise to Him as we worship in spirit and in truth will keep the joy alive as we run this race. Perseverance in the key. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run(A) with perseverance(B) the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus,(C) the pioneer(D) and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,(E) scorning its shame,(F) and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.(G) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary(H) and lose heart. Hebrew 12:1-3 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Blessed to be Bullied"

Bullying has become rampant in our schools today. There are seminars, letters and e-mails in masses each year discussing how to handle bullies and how bullying will not be tolerated and yet it happens. I'm not so sure it is anymore rampant today than it was when we were young, I just think we had the freedom to handle it differently without the added threat and fear of losing out lives whether from a gun shot, a drawn knife or the school administration. Children use to handle bullying in the front yard as they scuffled and fought for respect on the ground. Parents made their stance on bullying clear behind the wood shed and principals possessed the authority and the paddle that put a stop to it on school property. Now we have law suits and "rights" that protect and prevent us from dealing with bullying.

Recently bullying reared its ugly head at the Hawkins home and we were forced to figure out where we stood on the issue. Matthew is 12 and in middle school. He is an easy target for bullies. He is an atypical preteen. He make all A's and his goal is averages 96 or higher. He sits on the front row, pays attention, is polite to teachers, nice to everyone, treats girls with respect and minds his own business. The target is drawn in vivid colors on his back and I am proud. Matthew has said for years that he is different, but he doesn't mind being different. Matthew is also tough and never cries. He handles most any situation on his own and not much seems to get to him. For this reason, when he broke the other night in front of me and his dad, I knew there was something bigger than a brain tumor going on. He has walked thru so many trials and health issues with not a question or a tear, but whatever was bothering him was deep and he was struggling. It took about 30 minutes of coaxing to discover that Matthew was the target of a group of bullies. He was being called names, laughed at, made fun of and unwelcome to sit with his "friends." He was told that no one liked him, he was gay, he was stupid, he was ugly, he was fat and people only pretended to be his friend, among other things that I don't feel appropriate for a public blog. As he sat on the den floor pouring his heart out to us about this month long ordeal he asked, "How can I be a Godly young man and handle this in a way that honors Christ, but not get stepped on my whole life?" My advice was "Pray for your enemies, turn the other cheek and let me call their mommas." I received a resounding "NO mom this is my battle and I have to figure out how to deal with it." After processing the situation and listening to his son pour his heart out, his Godly daddy, his pastor says "Next time it happens, beat the tar out of him. Get in his face tell him to stop and if he doesn't flatten him to the ground." Matthew laughed, but looked surprised. I was MORTIFIED. I would never question my husband in the presence of my children, but NO, NO, NO. He can't fight. Later that evening I questioned, maybe even rebuked my husband for his advice and he said, "I know my son, I know he is not a fighter. He would never lay a hand on anybody, but he has to know that he can handle this and I have his back. He has to understand that being a Godly young man does not mean that you sit back and let people walk all over you and abuse you. He will do the right thing." I have complete and total trust in my husband, but this conversation increased my prayer life. All I could see was bloody noses, suspension and a reputation being scarred for life.

Matthew was in deep thought all weekend. It was obvious that he was processing and praying about what to do. He left on Monday morning with an apparent plan in his heart, but no words on his lips. I waited with baited breathe Monday afternoon. I refrained from approaching the bus stop, but I stood around the corner and watched as each neighbor child rounded the corner, but no Matthew. Oh, I wanted to run around the corner and see what was going on, but I waited. A few minutes later I could seem him rounding the corner with the same slow and steady gate he has had since he was a toddler. We walked inside and this is the story of how my son handled "bullying." "Mom, as we got off the bus I asked him if I could have a word with him. He said no and I told him that wasn't an option, that we needed to talk. He asked a friend to stay and go for help if it got ugly. Mom, this made me laugh inside because I wasn't going to hurt him. I said "I'm going to ask you nicely today to stop calling me names, stop making fun of me and stop be ugly to me. I'm asking nicely today, but if it doesn't stop I WILL put a stop to it. Do you understand? I want to be your friend, but this name calling stops today." Matthew said the young man immediately apologized and said it would not happen again. He went on to tell Matthew that there were others and what they were saying. Matthew politely said "Thank you letting me know and if I need to I will deal with that but today this is between you and me."

Matthew came home with his head held high and not another unkind word has been spoken to him by ANYONE. Now first let me say that Matthew is a big boy. He is 5'6 and weighs 150lbs. I wouldn't mess with him, but that day it was not the size of his body that demanded respect, it was his heart and his character. He took a stand. He did not use force, even though his daddy had freed him up if he felt threatened. Matthew spoke the truth in love and took a stand for truth. Matthew earned the respect of his peers that day. I have always had a great respect for my son, but that day I realized that my boy had become a man. He handled himself with integrity and dignity. I was still a little rattled at the advice his daddy had given him and I ask him, "Son, did you ever consider physical force." "No mom, I knew what daddy was doing. I would never fight someone unless it was in self defense. I knew daddy was just saying "Put a stop to it" and was freeing me up to not walk into the situation in fear." WOW! The wisdom of these men I live with astounds me.

Matthew took some huge steps that week as the Lord provided him with the opportunity to grow in grace and character. Even Jesus who walked without sin was persecuted and mistreated. He turned over tables and he rebuked in love. Bullies are no fun, but I am blessed that my son was bullied. He grew and his character was built and he is stronger in his faith because of it. Blessed to be bullied!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Going Home

Home has been defined as "the place you live permanently." For years we have heard "home is where your heart is." Both definitions define why Grammie had been asking for over a week to "Go Home." Sometimes misunderstood by nurses, doctors and even family thinking she wanted to return to her earthly dwelling place, her heart ached for HOME. Since the age of 13 at a Methodist Youth Meeting she has had a full understanding and a longing for HOME. On that day over 60 years ago eternity was set within her heart and she knew that her permanent dwelling place was with her Savior. She did not know the time or the day that she would meet Him face to face, but she knew her destination and she stayed her course. She knew her calling and her mission and she was successful. She was called to be a loving wife to my precious Pappy. At the age of 15 as she sat across the library her heart fluttered each time he winked at her. She knew it was love when he brought her a gardenia on their first date and from that day forward gardenias became her favorite flower and Pappy the love of her life. To quote "The first important thing I did in my life was give my heart to Jesus at the age of 13 and second important thing I did was marry Pappy." She loved him so dearly and desired to make his home his own "little kingdom." "Little darlin" she would say "I always have his coffee made when he gets home and his supper too. I try to always have the house clean and all my chores done. My friends don't call when he is home and the T.V. is his and so am I. I devote my time to him when he is there." Wisdom from 58 years of a happy marriage. In later years I have always loved to hear about their date nights. They may have been together all the time and even eaten out together every day, but Saturday night was date night. Dressed a little nicer and eating a little fancier, but dating was important and they dated for 58 years. Her children were her pride and joy and she was a wonderful mother. She would do anything and everything for her children and she did. Love, care, forgiveness, mercy and grace were offered in multitude as she always pointed her children to the cross. Her one desire. She was their prayer warrior and she fought the battle on her knees. She was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and had a spirit of discernment about her, often times waking from a sound sleep to intercede on behalf of those she loved. Though Grandmother is the title often penned, she was my Grammie. Not just a title, but a name. A sweet, sweet name, "Grammie." Young enough to have been titled mother, she was a doting Grammie and the memories run deep and sweet. A legacy left as her gifts of hospitality, discernment, concern, prayer, cooking skills, cleaning standards and love are all sprinkled among her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren and yet many, many more have called her Grammie and have been touched by her life. She had the gift of serving and knowing where there was a need and meeting that need. She cared about people. Her life was about others as she ministered in His name. Her life has touched many, a legacy that I desire to pass on as well. She did not live for self, but for His kingdom. For over 60 years she lived, she planned, she prepared and she longed for her HOME and on Monday morning her Savior said "Well done my good and faithful servant." She met Him face to face. She was whole and complete and she was rewarded for a lifetime of obedience and service. Oh how the angels sang and rejoiced. As I drove to the hospital unaware that she was taking her last breathes the Lord brought a song to my heart that I had not sung in many years, but as she entered the kingdom, tears flowing and voice cracking I sang... "Oh what a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face, the one who saved me by His grace. Then He'll take me by the hand and lead me to the promised land. What a day glorious day that will be." And it was. She received her glorified body and her mission was complete. Now she can worship at His feet for all eternity. I can see her worshipping and praising now, because that is what she loved to do. Our finite, earthly minds and hearts have trouble wrapping our heads around the loss we feel and we struggle with our desire to wish she were here, but she has experienced the very presence of Jesus. She is HOME. She has found her permanent residence. Her longings and desires have become a reality. Oh what a legacy to follow. I yearn for Heaven. That is our HOME. That is where we belong. Those who have placed their faith and trust in the person of the Lord Jesus will one day share that permanent residence. He has placed eternity in the hearts of men and HE alone is our desire. Thank you Grammie for paving the road, for being the example, for modeling our purpose. May we run with the same perseverance as we finish our journey HOME.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

This morning I was watching cartoons with my favorite 4 year old. It has become a morning ritual that I cherish and savor. He wakes up, comes to the couch and says "Mommy, can we cuddle and watch cartoons?" This is my last year to enjoy these special moments since he starts kindergarten in the fall. For that reason my answer is always "Yes!" There is so much to be learned and so much to be taught if we keep our eyes and ears open and look for learning opportunities. This morning I heard a cartoon character say "They can't hear me over the sound of their own voices." WOW! It hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as though Jesus himself was speaking those very words to my soul as an answer to a series of repetitive questions. Why Lord? Why don't they follow you? Why are marriages falling apart? Why are your children living in disobedience? Why? And the whys continue...And the answer..."They can't hear me over the sound of their own voices." The answer makes me sit in silence as I digest what might very well be our demise. Our own voices. Not only the words spoken aloud, but the words that run through our minds. We talk and even when we aren't talking we are!! When was the last time you found a place of silence and solitude for your soul? When do we listen? We spend so much time entertained by music, movies, television, ipods, ipads, facebook, texts, facetime, skype and anything else that can fill the silence with word and thought. And yet "We can't hear Him over the sound of our own voices." Yes, we read His letter of love to us, but has it become Caleb's definition of reading, "Just looking at words on a page." His word is living and active. It is alive and meets us at our point of need, but we must first be silent. We must listen for His voice. For His voice to be found ours must be silent. Are you seeking an answer from your Savior? Are their questions and concerns that plaque your soul? Do you cry out and wonder if your voice is being heard? Silence! He speaks..."Be still and know that I am God."

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Overwhelmingly Grateful"

I am normally a woman of many words as you may know by now but tonight I will keep it short and simple. Today there are many words that ALL define the attitude of my heart. I was blessed today with some much needed one on one conversation with my husband and we were both overwhelmed with the same gratefulness of heart. It is a message of thanksgiving that the Lord has been inscribing on both of our hearts this week... OUR CHILDREN! They are boys. They are human. They are young and they are A BLESSING! We were also overwhelmed with the understanding today that they are HIS. We can take no credit for who they are or who they are becoming. It is ALL for Him and for His glory. I boast about my children only in the Name of Jesus and boasting about what He has done in their lives. Children are a blessing. Teach them to love Jesus. Train them in righteousness. Love them unconditionally. Discipline them according to the standard of God's Word. Encourage them. Spend time with them. BE THANKFUL FOR THEM. Words on my heart today....THANKFUL, HUMBLED, AWED, PROUD, BLESSED, GRATEFUL, CHANGED, CHALLENGED, OVERWHELMED (in a good way), ENCOURAGED, APPRECIATIVE, CONTENT, HONORED, REWARDED, PLEASED, IMPRESSED, LOVED, CHERISHED, ENTERTAINED.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Understanding The Cries of My Heart"

I have always thought that I understood prayer. I talk to Jesus all day, every day. He is my friend, my Savior, my confidant. I don't change my voice when I pray. I don't whisper. I don't flower the words with "Dear God" or other words that King James would find beautiful. I just talk to my Heavenly Father. I share my heart. I ask for His wisdom, His guidance and I listen. He speaks! Sometimes through His word, sometimes in those still small whispers and other times in louder voices that only my spirit can understand. I pray according to His word and according to His will, we pray the parts of scripture that bring peace and comfort? Have you ever asked God to allow you to walk through a trial? Have you ever asked Him to allow you to suffer or hurt? No, we don't pray for those things, we pray against them, but in His word He is clear that those things will come. BUT, HE IS ENOUGH! He is enough to carry us through whatever may come our way. I have recently discovered "my new favorite song" which asked the question "what if your blessings come through raindrops and what if your healing comes through tears? what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near? what if the trials of this life are your blessings in disguise?" We equate sunny days with beauty and rainy days are dreariness, but could beauty exists without the rain? The world would wither and dry up. It was waste away without the rain. Have you ever experienced healing? Healing from a broken heart, a broken relationship, a devastating situation, a sickness? Healing often times involves tears. So many blessings have come as the result of a trial so in reality isn't the trial the blessing? Or phrased a different way...would the blessing have been possible without the trial? There were tears as our Savior hung on the cross and yet the ultimate healing was brought about through His death. I don't think their is anything wrong with praying for peace, health, comfort and blessings. God desires these things for our lives and His word is full of truth to back that up. His love is too great and too deep to give us everything we ask for. We are man with finite minds and yet we think we know what's best for us. He knows my needs. He knows the cry of my heart and He knows what it will take in my life to make me whole and complete and to give Him glory. Praising Him in the blessings and on the good days is easy, but it takes really knowing Him and depending on Him to trust and praise during the trials. Just one step further...the more we know Him and seek Him we understand the difference in praising Him during the trial and praising Him for the trial. These are the cries of my heart today...seeking to know and live the difference.
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
By: Laura Story

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Summers in the Country"

Though it was only 2 weeks at a time or maybe a weekend here and there so many of my memories revolve around the summers in the country. As soon as we pulled onto the road with dust and rocks I knew that we were almost there. It won't be long now. As we identified each relative, each neighbor and each place where uncle so and so use to live I knew it wouldn't be long. And then I could see it. The long ranch style cinder block home that would shape so many memories of my childhood. As we pulled into the drive there they were each time just the way I pictured they would be. Granddaddy would clap those hands from back to front ending in a pointing wave and a possible "hot dog" under his breath and Grandmother would bend at the waist patting the tops of her jeans as she awaited the embrace that she had been counting down for weeks. But she wasn't the only one who had been counting. The kisses and hugs were exchanged and all the luggage arranged in their regular places and then the tour. We had to see how much the place had changed or not at all. Walks through the greenhouses with the smell of fertilizer, potting soil and every plant imaginable, all the while being careful to watch for snakes taking a respite from the heat. These walks began the "piles of summer" of the things we would take home to provide life on our porches and decks and one summer helped a little girl in pigtails start a door to door plant sale from her wagon when she returned home. Next we checked the chickens always aware that we could get mites, but never did. There were laying hens where we gathered eggs and as we gathered we would begin to scout out supper.We had to pick just the right chicken. When the right one had been picked Grandmother would corner him, swing him around until his neck broke and flop him into a bath of hot water so we could "dress" him. However, I never understood this term as it always seemed we were undressing him instead. She was my hero. I was in awe. How did she know how to catch him, kill him, dress him and cook him? Eating him was my favorite part, but the cooking was actually Granddaddy's job. He was the chicken fryer. But that comes later. Cooking only commenced once the heat died down since their was no air in the house. Well, that's not true. There were two window units. One in the den that we were allowed to use after the sun fell behind the rat proof crib, which I always wondered if it really was. The air was on just long enough for the sweat that dripped down your back to dry. 100 + degrees in the deep south filled with humidity and unless we were there the big box in the window was never turned on. The second unit was in the dining room.
Each night before dinner, all the doors to the dining room would be closed allowing the room to cool off just enough for the nausea to subside so that we could all enjoy dinner. The table was long enough for the whole family, but the coveted seat was the one where the air blew so cold that your chicken was chilled before it reached your mouth. But you didn't mind because you knew the cold was only momentary and soon the air would be off and the meal that you had waited on for weeks would be over. Fried chicken made in the cast iron skillet, creamed corn seasoned with black pepper and stirred just so by Granddaddy's sun aged hands, zipper peas picked fresh that morning, biscuits patted out by Grandmother, made in the biscuit bowl and placed in circles on the cast iron biscuit pan, homemade jelly spread across each biscuit and a bowl full of homemade mashed potatoes which someone probably scratched up that morning from the potato patch.We lived off the land. Almost everything we needed was produced or grown their on the home front as were we and the generations before us. We knew it was bedtime when Wheel Of Fortune went off, even though it was still light outside. I was to use the bathroom with the red carpet. It smelled of Coast soap, Listerine, Ben-gay and Old Spice. As we bathed and slipped into the thinnest gowns or pj's we could find, we knew the sheets would stick to our skin by morning and we hoped and prayed that an escapee from the local prison would not come peaking in the open windows that produced a warm breeze which allowed slumber to be possible. In the event of an intruder we had mapped out a plan weeks before. The closets that connected the two rooms would be our hideout or so it was in the minds of me and my brother. Not only was this closet a cool hide out but made for a fun playhouse during the hours we felt like living in a make believe world. My head would rest near Grandmother's as I slept in the twin bed that made a 90 degree angle with hers. She would tell me stories from her childhood and my mind would take me to a place where lunches were carried in pails and little girls wore long dresses year round. Not sure if my imagination was true to the times, but in my mind Grandmother became friends with Laura Ingalls. I was full of questions and some answers proved to be misunderstandings...I asked about monsters in the house and Grandmother assured me there was some in the refrigerator and we could have it at lunch. Mustard was what she heard and the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up after the tears were silenced and I was safe in her arms. The mornings came too early, yet not quick enough. I would stumble from my bed knowing that the adults had me beat by hours. Still in my gown, I would slip on my rubber boots and trudge through the fields in search of the harvesters. Where did they say they would be? Butter beans or zipper peas. Maybe they were in the corn field today. As I approached the fields I would give the call...yoo hoo...and when I heard Grandmother yoo hoo back I knew that I was close. Buckets of peas and beans, barrels of tomatoes and cucumbers, carts of corn and okra, baskets of squash and peppers of all kinds. I knew what the rest of the day would hold. After scratching for a few potatoes myself and filling my fingernails with the richness of earth I would head to the house for that small cup of orange juice that was sipped as I sat upon Grandmother's lap. We would soon eat sausage and biscuits with a little "monsters" of course, maybe a fried egg or two and then the work began. Shelling peas on the porch where the boxed fans blew. Slicing and blanching squash. Pickling cucumbers. Cutting and freezing okra. Shucking corn and freezing some on its cob and some that had been cut off the cob into that big bucket by that knife that I still can picture vividly. I can smell the peas as they blanched. I smell the sweet smell of plums as they boil and get ready to be jelly. I can hear the bubbling, sloshing and clanking of the cans as tomatoes and soups were being sealed for winter. So much to do and so much reward to be reaped year round. I'm sure these were not all accomplished in the same day, just as I am sure I did not do much of the work, but as one memory wove into the next the memories became cohesive. The only time of the day that rest was acceptable was the noon hour as potted meat sandwiches and Pringles were made and quiet came over the home just in time for "Grandmother's Program." I'm sure Hope and Bo are as happy today as they were back then and though time seems to stand still for them, The Days Of Our Lives continued and we had only One Life To Live. We had work to do and only 2 weeks to continue making memories. Once all the cartons were stacked in the 5 freezers that stood tall in the utility room and all the jars were lined on the shelves in the dining room, we knew it was time for another walk. This time it began at the edge of the property. Before we ventured off the property we had to see if this would be the year we could make it up the tree. The tree that held the rope swing and slanted down the drive. The tree that generations before me had also tried to "run up", others had climb and others had played under making mud pies and pea soup from unidentified leaves in the yard. We would take turns running with all of our might just hoping that we could "run up" the tree. Never succeeding, but always trying and hoping. We would catch up to the others at the scuppernong vines or maybe they were muscadines. I never really knew the difference. I only knew that while others ate the inside and spit out the hull...I liked them whole. Once our tummies were full and we were assured that we would have a stomach ache, we would continue down the dirt road always aware and looking for snakes, but never finding one.
We would graze the blackberries along the way and finally make it to the pond. Would the water be high or low? Would we get to fish this trip or was there too much work to do? We always managed to find the time. We would use those worms from the freezer that grew on those trees. You know the ones I could never pronounce. Now I know they are catawba worms. I preferred those to the "stink bait" which did. I loved the pull of the line, the bouncing of the bobber, but not the cleaning. I learned that even though we skin and filet them it is NOT ok to poke their eyeballs out with a stick. This is considered inhumane. Every 9 year old should learn this lesson. The walk would continue and I re-lived where my Mother had been carried away by a spooked horse and how her dress was torn as they reached to grab her. Just steps away was the destination we set out for...the family cemetery. Cemeteries are suppose to be sad and yet I loved the visits. The answers to each question of who was she and how she died. Sweeping the leaved from each grave, but never allowed to walk on them or sit on the tombstones. All of these things were signs of disrespect. We would linger and see the mourning in her eyes as she carefully set the flowers back up on Mommer and Popper's graves. Arm in arm they would take the dirt road back and we would hop the fence and run through the field to see who would be home first. Sometimes before we journeyed home we would venture farther and go to the old home place. The foundation still remained and we could see where each room was and imagined how Grandmother was as a child and where she slept and ate. The memories are still so vivid. Once back at the home place we would occasionally rummage through the rat proof crib or walk into the barn to find Mama cat and her new litter.
Mama cat lived for years though each time we visited she was a different color. Now I realized that Mama was not her name, but was an adjective used describe her condition. There were always cats. Lots of cats. Some were tame. Some were scared. Some had tails and others we called tom. The kittens were friendly and had way too much hugging and loving and were forced by little hands to climb trees. Once a little black kitten found his way back home with us as she traveled tucked under my arm. We always seemed to bring lots of the country home with us. The ice chests were full and so was the trunk. Enough vegetables and jellies, pickles and plants to stock the freezers and shelves for the year. And each family member that made these same memories received the love in these tangible containers. Some evenings when all canning and freezing were done we would sit in the sewing room. It was an add on room and it was cool and comfortable. The quilting loom was suspended from the roof and each time a different design hung above our heads. When time would allow Grandmother would lower the loom and stitch and work and today all those she loved bundle up with the fruits of her labor always remembering the love that was stitched into each square. It was there I learned to thread a machine, to sew on a button, to make small pillows and learned the meaning of words like bobbin and seam ripper. She was a woman of many talents and she had strength, stamina and love. Her hair was my favorite. It hung so far past her waist that she would sit on it if it had not been twisted and wrapped and tucked up in such a neat bun. Jet black underneath, but gray on the top. Defining who she was. Still young and strong and able to accomplish any task yet old in age and experienced and over worked by life. There was no dishwasher, no central heat and air. She did things the hard way yet to her it was the only way.
Grandaddy worked just as hard and just as long. He could never sit still and I can hear the slamming of the screen door as he would come and go all day. Trips to the store with Granddaddy always proved interesting. Donuts and ice cream were always involved and cokes in glass bottles were a must. Enough to drink and line the dividing wall from kitchen to den. Never saying no to his grandchildren and shocking all the other adults in the amount of caffeine that we were allowed to consume. We learned that it is not ok for someone to "rob you without a gun" by charging high prices for pie. We learned that truck stops and diners have the best food and that it is ok to use your horn when angry or when saying hello to a friend. He drove like the road belonged to him and as we curved around the dirt road we prayed that the neighbors dogs would not come running. Granddaddy said he didn't mind hitting them, though he never did, but in our minds we begged them to stay under the porch so that Granddaddy would not yell at them and call them what "they were" or tell them "where to go." He always made sure we left with an envelope of money, enough to buy school clothes and he kept the desk drawer filled with Freshen-Up. You know the gum that squirts when you chew it. He was one of the best chefs I know and I try to replicate his culinary skills as best I can. He kept gas in the mini-bike and would let us ride through the field that were not planted. He solved each Wheel of Fortune puzzle on the edge of his seat and he had no problems going to bed when it was still light out since he would arise when it was dark. The prison through the woods never scared him. He was a guard there for many years and he knew exactly which shelf he needed to reach in order to protect his family from an intruder. My favorite adventures with Granddaddy were the guinea adventures. We would walk through the woods looking for guinea eggs. The secret to gathering was using a long tool for picking up eggs. If they ever got a scent of the humans the hunt would start again and though I didn't mind Granddaddy liked knowing right where they were. The memories are engraved deep and are not only memories but have become a legacy. They made me who I am. I try each year to dredge them up through sights and smells and sounds. The smell of the plums boiling as they prep for jelly, the clicking of the cans as I put up tomatoes and peppers, shelling, blanching and freezing peas, threading bobbins, the sound of the sewing machine and the smell of the needle's friction all take me back to my childhood. I leave the chickens to Tyson and the thermostat stays on 73. I am not as strong, as talented, nor do I have the stamina that they did, but LOVE. I have the love and I give it freely. A legacy of love. I wish my children could have the memories that I have, but they are mine and they will have their own...each one unique and each one associated with a smell or sound that one day will take them back to today. These memories may not be exactly how each visit was scripted, but this is how I remember it in the novel of my heart and I love to remember and relive it, especially in the summer. I miss my "summers in the country."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"What Could I Possibly Do?"

Her body lay lifeless in the right hand lane just over the top of the hill. Cars tagged from Georgia, Indiana and Alabama all swerved to miss her. Dazed and wondering what we had stumbled upon our hearts began to cry out "Lord, what do you want us to do?" Pulling over and jumping from our means of transportation we all began to scramble. Some ran to the body, some stopped traffic, Matt ran to the closest road marker and called 911. I began to spout out firm, but loving instructions for my children to remain in the car no matter what. What now? Do I run, do I fall to my knees, do I approach this life wondering if breath and heart beat still exist? What could I possibly do? Pray! That is all I knew to do. I began to quickly walk down the median praying aloud, asking the Lord to spare lives, bring peace, offer wisdom and give comfort and then my gaze was fixed. I saw her on the side of the road, shaking, crying, scared and in shock. I knew where my heart was. I ran to her and wrapped my arms around her. All I could do was hold her and pray. She was traveling from home to a neighboring town to visit some friends. A road she had traveled many times before. It was familiar, it was comfortable and it would soon change her life forever. As she topped the hill there in her lane was a figure, a person, standing in the middle of the road. She jerked the wheel as hard as she could. That sudden reflex was all she could do and yet not enough. Though the instinctive reflex is possibly what saved this person's life, it forever changed the lives of all those present. Mirror gone, car dented and neither seemed important as hearts and lives were dented deeper than surface alone. As I held this new friend and prayed aloud I trusted that God would provide the words because nothing I could say or do would bring comfort. As I prayed I felt the trembling lessen and I began to hear other voices. Oblivious to sirens and screeching tires all I heard was a chorus of prayer being offered up. As I opened my eyes I realized there were others gathered around, hands out-stretched or touching and praying, pleading, asking God to intervene. Those medically trained came and attended to the lady who was suffering in the road. She was stable, she would be fine, she was quickly transported away from the scene. Questions remained...who was she? Where had she come from? Where was she going? Rumors surfaced as each police officer had his own thought and theory. She might be the lady who was missing from the nursing home? Did she have dementia? Was she mentally disturbed? Was she on drugs? Was alcohol involved? Was it an intentional act to try and leave this world? What did they mean by (questionable) items in her purse? So many unanswered questions and so much pain that accompanied them all. And then there was the driver, who had my heart and attention from the start. She was scared, she was shaken, she was worried. Her life had just been forever changed and there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. Through the sobs I heard her heart, "If she's ok, then I will be ok." "If I know she can breathe, then I can breathe again." There was no way I could walk away and leave her in the care of 5 officers exchanging theories and stories. She needed assurance. She needed comfort. She needed a friend. When spotting an accident I have always thought "What could I possibly do?" as I continued to drive thinking I had nothing to offer. But on this day I understood. I knew what I could do. There was only one thing I could do. Stop and pray. It reminded me of a parable. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho there laid a man who was passed by. Were they just too busy, too important? Could they not be bothered? Some walked on the far side as far away as they could, why? "If I don't see it, then it doesn't exist." So many passed us by on 231 that day. Shaking their heads in disbelief, maybe some in sorrow, but never stopping to help, never caring enough to be bothered. Something else was more important. I have been that person. But, on this day I knew I had to stop. No, I'm not the Good Samaritan, but how often do we pass by those in need wondering "what could I possibly do?" I'm not qualified. I have nothing to offer. Someone else could do more than I could. How many people had to pass before the Good Samaritan stopped? Imagine if on that day, he just couldn't be bothered. Would the man have lived? Jesus instructs us to "go and do likewise." Go and have mercy on others. Help! Minister! When we realize that it is not about us, but about HIM it will change our possibilities. I have nothing to offer, but Christ in me does. Praying and interceding on the behalf of others is the greatest gift you can give. The 2 ladies that I asked the Lord to shower His peace, His mercy and His comfort over are both alive and well. There are still unanswered questions. There are still fears that must be conquered and healing that must take place, but only through the power of prayer. Maybe it is not the next car accident or a tragic scene, but we are to be His hands of mercy. Where can we serve? Where can we give? Who can we love because he first loved us and them? I was asked to step out of my comfort zone. I wish I had run full force and though my body moved, my heart was reserved until I saw her face. Nothing I did or could have done changed the day or the event, but hopefully...it is my prayer, that these women felt the love of God through the touch of a stranger.